Businessman circling a success bubble connected to vision strategy and idea above the cityMy family had an interesting discussion during the holiday break. No, it wasn’t about football, turkey or ‘Black Thursday’ shopping; we somehow ventured into the topic of millennials—most “affectionately” referred to by my family members as “your generation.”

Now, keep in my mind, at the ages of 29 going on 30, my two cousins I “debated” with on the subject actually fall into the millennial category themselves, but according to them, their generation is nothing like mine, i.e. the younger people of today.

According to my relatives’ experiences, my generation is:

  • Narcissistic
  • We live for today
  • Entitled
  • All about me
  • Doesn’t think 5, 10 or 15 years ahead
  • Obsessed with “selfies”

And the list goes on and on and on.

I made the comment that millennials tend to care more about pursuing our passions than making a great deal of money. For us, getting up every day to go to a job that doesn’t even feel like work because it’s your passion—a job where you’re actually making a difference—is the true definition of success. Not making $600k/year in some corporation.

But to my cousins, 1) money equals stability (something us millennials don’t’ think about) and 2) money is necessary (in a sense) to change the world. If we want to feed the poor, clothe the homeless, etc. the needed resources for these endeavors take money.

Point taken.

I also made a point about the difference between “my generation’s” mindset and theirs. You see, my cousin works in the finance department for a major company. Yet, he has plans to start his own business years from now. I told him, unlike his generation, millennials would ask, “Why wait?”

Growing up, we were most often taught to be the inventors and the creators. In college I was constantly told to pursue my dreams and passions, build my personal brand, and create my own company rather than work for someone else.

“I will be my own company someday,” I told him. “I am a brand.”

My cousin’s response: See, that’s narcissistic.

Apparently, possessing the mindset that you don’t have to go the conventional route and wait; that you can market yourself and your ideas as a business; and that you don’t have to sit in a cubicle for 8+ hours for 20 years before pursuing your real goals is narcissistic. Go figure.

I’m aware that older folks, even older Gen Yers, may dislike our “go getter, seize the day” attitudes, but…oh well. In the age of startups, technology and social media, more and more young people are taking the risks of stepping out on their own and really following their passions. And though people may want to deem this approach narcissistic, entitled and “all about me,” I think it’s far from that.

Sure plenty of millennials fit into those stereotypes, but there are also plenty who don’t. Millennials can be hardworking too, and truth be told, if it wasn’t for this unconventional, why-wait approach to success, many of the popular and game-changing companies today wouldn’t even exist.

Case in point:

  • Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook
  • David Karp of Tumblr
  • Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger of Instagram
  • Andrew Mason of Groupon
  • Pete Cashmore of Mashable
  • Drew Houston of Dropbox

These are major players in the entrepreneurship game, but there plenty of other examples of hardworking millennials who used their “seize the day” mindset to become successful. Here are just a few from around the web:

Jared Hecht helped found GroupMe, a group text-messaging service. He co-founded the company when he was 23 and sold it to Skype one year later for about $80 million. … Hecht is a great example of an entrepreneur who found a way to take something that was already available and to make it better. He also shows that you don’t need to build your company over many years to be successful. If you have a good idea, you can develop it and sell it to someone else who can turn it into something more.

Katelyn Pankoke is the designer and owner of Elaya Vaughn Bridal in Chicago. She started her line of bridal gowns right after graduating from FSU in 2010. Pankoke, 24, and her clothing appeared on TV’s “Project Runway” show and that exposure helped Elaya Vaughn Bridal grow even more. She will stick with the bridal line, “but I have been getting a lot of requests for a ready-to-wear line, so that is in the works for the near future,” she said.

Jake Stauch is the CEO of NeuroSpire Inc.; a business based on the premise that brain waves are a better predictor of potential consumer behavior than focus groups, surveys or other methods. After launching his company at the end of 2012, NeuroSpire Inc. is already being used in 20 countries worldwide and is about to add new clients Walt Disney Co. and Proctor & Gamble.

My point? The unconventional approach to career paths and success most millennials take do not equate laziness, narcissism or entitlement.

During our discussion, I could only name a few of the “major” successful millennials. I’m thinking I’ll have to send this article to my relatives just in case we ever go for a second round.



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